Hilary Whelton

Music association to form new youth choir

Director Hilary Whelton says 'time is ripe' to bring back defunct choral program

Several years removed from its last youth choir in Parksville Qualicum Beach, the Parksville & District Musical Association believes its time has come around at last.

The PDMA is inviting youths age 12 and older to sign up for its new Sing-chronicity Youth Choir program, which will begin Jan. 6 and run through April 27.

“We thought earlier this year that this was one of the ways we could ensure the future of our (senior) choir, which tends to be made up of an older age group,” said Nigel Hurford, PDMA president.

“The PDMA has a mandate to encourage and foster music, both vocal and instrumental. Young voices are the future of choirs in the area.”

Hilary Whelton, vocal director for the Bard to Broadway theatre company and for its summer youth music camps, has been hired as director for Sing-chronicity, which will introduce students to a range of musical styles from classical to modern pop.

“A partner and I had a youth choir through Bard to Broadway for a few years, but our original core group aged out and we weren’t getting enough younger people coming up,” said Whelton. “It seems the time is ripe to see it start again.”

Sing-chronicity members will meet for rehearsal each Wednesday evening from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the McMillan Arts Centre’s concert gallery in Parksville. A $50 fee per student to help offset PDMA’s sponsorship costs will cover rehearsals for the full spring term, said Hurford. No experience is necessary.

“There’s kind of a safety in choral music, because you’re not out there alone,” said Whelton. “It’s a good way to try out your chops. There’s a nice, collective feeling in making music together; it’s the original team sport.”

There will be public singing opportunities for the group, as well. Whelton envisions performances in seniors centres and at local community events.

“There’s no point in spending hours in a rehearsal hall if you don’t get to strut your stuff,” she said with a laugh. “Depending on how much repertoire we’re able to put together, there would be a chance at some concerts, too.”

The PDMA is a registered charitable society that oversees the Parksville Community Choir, the Oceanside Concert Band and Cantado, a smaller, a cappella group of chamber singers.

Hurford said the organization did sponsor a youth choir for younger children until a few years ago, but it was discontinued due to a combination of dwindling numbers and health problems of its director.

If the youth choir is a success this spring, said Whelton, it would resume in the fall after a summer break. But even if turnout for the coming spring session is too low to run the program, Hurford vowed PDMA would be back to try again.

“We’ve got to see how it develops,” he said. “I’m not sure if this is the right time of year to launch it; if it fails, we’ll try again when school is starting up again in August.

“Hilary and I are both committed to making this a success. Of course, we’re relying on the kids and the kids’ parents to make this work.”

To register or for more information on Sing-chronicity, contact Whelton at 250-752-0547 or wheltonc@shaw.ca

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